Published January 13, 2015
An undrafted rookie faces a significant uphill climb in his effort to make an NFL roster, so the last thing anyone in that position wants to do is make the ascent up the mountain any steeper.
Former LSU receiver Russell Shepard did exactly that, however, when he boasted that he agreed to terms on a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles before the draft actually ended.
"I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft," Shepard told WNXX radio in Baton Rouge. "Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me, 'Is it true that you've signed with a team already?' and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over, because that (the Eagles) was the perfect fit for me."
Needless to say a player is not allowed to take himself off the board and the host tried to play Ted Koppel to Shepard's Al Campanis, throwing the young man a life raft by asking for clarification.
Shepard, though, only doubled down on his dubious claim.
"I signed with them before the draft was over," Shepard continued.
That kind of thing, of course, is against NFL rules and just to be fair to the Eagles, untrue. Shepard hasn't actually signed anything yet, he just agreed to terms with the Birds before he was allowed, something which actually happens quite often in the later stages of the draft.
But that's all semantics and Bill Clinton-like word parsing, something Philadelphia will suddenly have to become quite adept at because most prospects who are given the wink of the eye understand they shouldn't be talking about these under the table deals that can get their potential employers in hot water with Roger Goodell.
"Yes, we are looking into it to determine the facts," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said when asked if the league was investigating the matter.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Shepard has already come clean and even went so far to mention that Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly personally called him at the beginning of the sixth round to explain the Eagles wanted him but couldn't draft him because the team had lost some picks via the trade up to get quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of Round 4. All of this nonsense sent the Eagles scurrying on Wednesday.
"Russell Shepard has not signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles," the team said in a statement. "However, we did come to terms on a contract with he and his agent after the draft was completed."
On the outside looking in, Shepard seems like far more trouble that he's worth, but Kelly must see something in the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Houston native's versatility because the team isn't running away from the controversy just yet.
"We anticipate (Shepard), like all of the rookie free agents we have agreed to terms with, will take a physical examination upon arriving in Philadelphia prior to next week's rookie mini-camp and then sign a contract," the team said.
Shepard believes he'll get a chance to play receiver, running back and Wildcat quarterback in Kelly's offense, while returning kicks and being a gunner on the punt team.
The rest of us believe he will get a cursory look and quietly move on sometime in August, a mouthy footnote which could cost the Eagles a draft pick down the line.